At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Turns out I have internet access here. In transit I read the Enns book, Inspiration and Incarnation, which UPS had delivered to my house earlier in the afternoon. It's a bit short and sketchy, written for a lay audience, but the thesis holds promise. Enns discusses three types of difficult passage: those which have parallels in older Ancient Near Eastern literature (e.g. the Flood story, a version of which is found in the Gilgamesh epic); those which seem inconsistent either with other parts of the OT or with known historical fact (e.g. 1 & 2 Chronicles' rewriting of the historical account in 1 & 2 Kings along the lines of a theological agenda); and NT readings of the OT which seem exegetically fanciful by modern evangelical hermeneutics. Enns argues that these passages seem problematic to us only because we are anachronistically judging the truthfulness of the Bible by modern standards of objectivity and factuality. The analogy Enns draws between Inscripturation and Incarnation is helpful here. Just as the divine nature of Christ becomes incarnated in a human nature limited by conditions of time and place, so the theological message of Scripture is inscripturated in literary forms particular to the ancient near east. It would be as inappropriate to expect Genesis to be a scientific account of cosmology, or Chronicles to be strictly neutral historiography, as it would be to expect Jesus to be a blue-eyed, blond Aryan.

I was particularly interested in the examples of New Testament writers uncritically accepting extrabiblical Jewish interpretative traditions, which seems to me to be a problem for the Protestant tenet of sola scriptura. To follow the lead of the Apostles, it seems that we should accord creedence to the commonly received extrabiblical Christian traditions, e.g. perpetual virginity and sinlessness of the BVM. This isn't something Enns discusses though.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Flying out of Lubbock again tonight, this time for Alabama. No posts til Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

3:30 am--Wake up, shower, dress
4:00--Hit the highway
4:50--arrive Lubbock airport
5:44--depart Lubbock on Embraer Jet
6:50--arrive Dallas; eat Egg McMuffin
7:45--depart Dallas on MD80 for Phoenix; look out of window at desert landscape. Even quarries, refineries, etc. can seem attractive at a height of 32,000 ft.
8:14 mountain time--Arrive Phoenix. Sit around a couple of hours waiting for American West Flight to Ontario, CA, then happen to notice on the monitor that they changed the departure gate without announcing it. I get to the new gate just in time.
10:29--Depart Phoenix on Airbus 320 for Ontario.
11:51 pacific time--Arrive at Ontario. Wait around for a couple of hours for someone to pick me up, then finally decide to call the supervisor of the library. Wasn't I told that a rental car was reserved for me? She gives me reservation number and directions to campus.
2:30 pm--catch shuttle from terminal to rental car place. Fill out paperwork etc.
3:00--Pull out of Enterprise parking lot and head down the freeway to Riverside. I was told by some Californians that Riverside is one of the scuzzier towns in the state; nevertheless, it's a sparkling Garden of Eden compared to west Texas. But once on Magnolia street I can't find the cross street I was told the university is on, and I end up 45 minutes later in Corona. Turn around and drive back, throbbing headache driving me to despair. I'm practically back to the intersection where I first turned onto Magnolia when I notice a quad of buildings that looks faintly academic. Drive down an unmarked avenue lined with palm trees to visitor parking.
4:30--Find the library, talk briefly with supervisor re. the job, bum some Advil. Head to the admin building for short interrogation by administrators. Am I comfortable with the conservative nature of the university? (Yes.) Do I think there are limits to what materials a librarian at a Christian university should purchase, even if strictly in support of the curriculum? (I say no, which I suspect was the Wrong Answer.)
5:15--I'll have to have a phone interview later, I'm told, given the truncated nature of this interview. Head back to the airport, worried I won't make it back in time for my 6:44 departure. I have to stop to fill up the car. Drop off car, take shuttle back to terminal, check in at American West counter (luckily there's no line), go through the security hassel, and make it to the gate with ten minutes to spare.
6:44--Depart on junky Canadair RJ for Las Vegas. Babies crying, floozy blond next to me talking with athletic guy across the aisle about busted relationships. Fly directly over spectacular mountain scenery. Vegas airport looks brand-spanking new. Nice shops, lots of slots machines. I spend a good five hours here without, unfortunately, getting the opportunity to discuss Reformed theology. Drift in and out of consciousness.
1:30 am--Plane boards over an hour late. Nice Boeing 757. Snooze a bit despite crick in neck.
6:30 central--Land in Dallas. Rush to make connection.
7:40--Fly to Lubbock.
8:45--Drive home.


Sunday, June 26, 2005

So in the concluding chapter of the book on NT criticism that I'm reviewing, the author argues:

The only reason for God to inspire the Bible would be so that his people would have his actual words; but if he really wanted people to have his actual words, surely he would have miraculously preserved those words, just as he had miraculously inspired them in the first place. Given the circumstance that he didn't preserve the words, the conclusion seemed inescapable to me that he hadn't gone to the trouble of inspiring them.

The reason he thinks God didn't "preserve the words" is the fact that some passages of the NT have alternate readings in various ancient manuscripts, and we can't always determine which are original. This isn't an unreasonable argument, but ultimately it shows that theological liberalism is just the flip side of fundamentalism (and indeed in the introduction the author talks about his fundamentalist past). Both liberalism and fundamentalism are modernist and thus obsessed with certainty. Descartes, the father of modernism, thought that all beliefs had to be ultimately founded on indubitable premises to be justified. The theological equivalent is the belief that all doctrines must be founded on 100% inerrant scripture to be held de fide. I remember in high school a Church of Christ friend arguing for the literal truth of Genesis 1-3 on the grounds that if the Bible contains any error whatsoever then it is worthless. Understandably, then, a person raised in fundamentalism who discovers any doubtful sections of Scripture will be tempted to chuck it all and swing into the opposite extreme. As I said, I'm looking for a middle way--the Bible, like other sources of knowledge (sense experience, secular history, etc.), can be basically reliable even if not inerrant.

Gotta get up at 3:30 tomorrow to catch the 5:30 out of Lubbock. It's gonna be a long, long, long day.